WILMINGTON — After coughing up an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, St. Elizabeth found itself trailing Tower Hill, 54-52, with 21.1 seconds remaining. The Hillers had a chance to make it a two-possession game if they could drain a pair of free throws, but the front end of a one-and-one bounced off the rim.
That was the opening the Vikings needed, and Nasir Brown made sure they capitalized. Brown hit a three-point shot with about four seconds left on the clock, lifting St. Elizabeth to a 55-54 victory in the first round of the DIAA boys basketball tournament on March 3 at the St. E Center.
Brown had a special player in mind when he let the ball go.
“That last shot was crazy. That was some Kobe stuff. That was Kobe right there,” he said.
The 17th-seeded Vikings will travel to the tournament’s top seed, Sanford, on Thursday at 7 p.m. They came within seconds of having their season come to a close two days earlier.
Tower Hill, the 16th seed, held a 40-39 lead in the final minute of the third when the Vikings began a run that threatened to put the game out of reach.
A Hillers turnover resulted in a Brown three on the other end with 51 seconds left to put St. E’s up by a pair. Another turnover led to a running jumper by Jaden Dickerson with a few seconds to go in the third, and the score was 44-40 St. Elizabeth heading into the fourth.
The run extended to nine points on a Brown runner and a Colin Hockenbrock lay-in early in the fourth before Donoven Mack hit one of two free throws for Tower. Hockenbrock got that free throw back, restoring the eight-point advantage with about 5:50 to go, but that is when the game’s momentum swung.
Tower Hill intercepted an inbounds pass, and Julian Jackson found Ricky Deadwyler open for a three-pointer. Deadwyler turned an offensive rebound — the Hillers owned the offensive boards all night — into a put-back. The next time down the floor, Jackson grabbed another offensive board and fed Deadwyler six feet from the hoop. His short jumper cut the St. Elizabeth lead to a single point.
There was no time to panic, Brown said. “What was going through our head was, we just have to stay calm and just keep playing our game and work hard as a team.”
Hockenbrock ended Deadwyler’s scoring streak at seven by taking a pass from Brown and turning it into an old-fashioned three-point play. But those would be the Vikings’ final points until Brown’s heroics.
In the meantime, Jaeden Fitzhugh hit a short field goal, and Mack scored twice, once on a driving layup and once on a scoop shot that put the Hillers ahead with less than a minute on the clock.
The Vikings withstood a charging call and a missed free throw on the front end of a one-and-one before getting a chance to win. After the Hillers missed their free throw, Brown brought the ball up and passed to Dickerson. Dickerson pointed to the right elbow, and Brown circled under the hoop to that very spot. Then he delivered a shot the Vikings and their fans won’t soon forget.
It was a tight game throughout. Fitzhugh had a big game, scoring 11 points in the first half that ended with the Hillers up, 26-25. The Vikings stayed close thanks in large part to their three-point shooting. Four players combined for five in the first half alone, with Kye Rawks making a pair.
Brown, who came off the bench, led the winners with 17 points. Others in double figures included Rawls (13, including four three-pointers), Dickerson (12) and Hockenbrock (10, all in the second half).
Brown said the Vikings, who improved to 15-6, will not be awed by playing the top seed in the next round.
“We won’t get intimidated. We’re ready for anybody,” he said.
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Fitzhugh and Mack each had 17 for Tower Hill, while Deadwyler added 14. The Hillers finished the season 14-7.